Oxford’s Rubbish Politics

ThisisOxfordshire quotes Jean Fooks, the Executive Member for a Cleaner City, as saying that she is “not for turning” on the issue of fortnightly waste collections in Oxford.

I had intended to stay out of this debate save in respect of the contribution which the horrid green bins make to the decline of the streetscape, and I am willing to let the city council have a go at mitigating that before pitching in on the subject. My guess, however, is that the Hancock Prize for F***ing up the View (current holder a councillor “for his contribution to arboriculture in Osney”) will this year go to the Oxford City Council Rubbish Department (the one that’s actually called that as opposed to all the others).

The scheme as a whole, however, is a different matter. Jean Fooks deserves some support in the face of political opposition which is as unfair as it is hypocritical. Accept that there are many people (real people, I mean, not politicians) with genuine grounds for concern – what change does not bring problems? Accept also that the public information arm of the city council could not sell beer to a thirsty rugby club, never mind a complex strategy to a sceptical public. The most damaging – and most unfair – opposition has come from disappointed Toytown politicians scenting blood.

I will write separately on why this scheme or something like it had to happen and how it might have been executed. Each of the three main parties had a hand in producing it – the Greens proposed the budget for it, and Labour introduced it before a finely-balanced election lost them control of the city. Jean Fooks and the Lib Dems ended up holding the baby, but it was in essentials the same baby as Labour had held before the elections.

I have ploughed through yards of verbiage by local politicians on this, as well as comments by the public. The citizens’ contributions range from the general to the particular, from the measured to the hysterically semi-literate, from the balanced to the frankly unbalanced. They tell us what anyone could have predicted – that changes to a street collections pattern which has remained much the same since Victoria was a girl are going to cause real difficulties as well as imagined ones.

The contributions by the politicians tell us that they are more interested in political point-scoring than in promoting the collection scheme and the recycling initiative of which it is part. I would like to be able to summarise for you the points of agreement and difference between them – but frankly, life is too short to try and work out what their respective positions are now and how, if at all, they have changed.

The Greens remind me of the small dogs I meet when I go out with my large dog. All the little terriers and the like stand on their hind legs and pummel mine in the face, yapping as they do so. Mine stands there patiently, and eventually tries to move to right or left; the little ones run along beside him, yap, yap yap until something else – a leaf or a butterfly – attracts them, or their little legs cannot keep up. Thus the Greens in debate.

Labour’s contribution is summed up by the quotation at the end of the thisisOxfordshire article.

“Labour city councillor John Tanner, who introduced the recycling scheme when he was environment portfolio holder, added: “Despite Jean Fooks’ best efforts, I think recycling in Oxford is going to be a success.”

Well, Tanner, are you saying the scheme is a success or not? What exactly has Jean Fooks done or not done which is different from what you would have done or not done? I’m damned if I can work it out.

Labour’s problem, I think, is twofold. One is that they lost power before they could implement their scheme and can neither disown it nor applaud it as executed by their successors. The other is that a former councillor who moved away last year took half the Labour Group’s collective IQ with him, along with such capacity as they had for balancing the common good against political point-scoring. Tanner’s voters kicked him for a couple of years once and the Labour Group’s average IQ shot up.

As for the Lib Dems, they are stuck with three difficulties – the perceived need to rush the inherited scheme (or their variant on it) through as soon as possible after the election, the quality of the officers charged with promoting the scheme, and a balancing act on the subject of enforcement – they cannot rule out the threat of fines for non-compliance but are attracting quite enough opprobrium just on the roll-out without drawing attention to the future use of sanctions to enforce it.

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About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in Oxford, Oxford City Council, Oxford recycling, Recycling. Bookmark the permalink.

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